*There aren't going to be real quote. It was a pithy start to the point I'm about to make.
One of the fun things about this year's Minnesota team is that awards season actually holds some intrigue. While I know that we won't see Maxx Williams and Peter Mortell show up on many national postseason lists the fact is that it's still interesting to take a look, if only to see who the national scribes felt was the best at their position.
So when this tweet crossed my Twitter feed, I clicked through in search of Nick O'Leary. Instead? I find this nonsense.
We selected three wide receivers, an indication of the disappearing tight end.
O RLY? I think Maxx Williams, Nick O'Leary, and many others would like a word with you ESPN. Because last time I checked, they were still out there and they were still making big contributions to their teams.
Arbitrary Nonsense Is Arbitrary
What I find annoying about this move by ESPN is that they could have included 3 WR's and a tight end. And for that tight end position they could have selected an athletic player whose primary impact was receiving or a solid blocker who helps power a strong rushing attack (or perhaps even a guy who --gasp-- does both). Apparently though, there is no room on the ESPN list for a multipurpose position. And it wouldn't be right to give a spot to a position that practically doesn't exist I suppose. No, if you did that you wouldn't have room for a position that actually doesn't exist.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a slam on Lockett or other guys who do great things for their teams across positions. I actually think it's great ESPN is recognizing those key contributors. I'm highlighting ESPN's use of the fictitious on paper but real in impact AP role to call out the pointlessly flippant nature of their decision. ESPN could easily include a tight end selection. Not doing so is asinine, ESPN #NARRATIVE nonsense.
An Incorrect Narrative
Suggesting the tight end position is less emphasized by many offenses isn't wrong. The tight end role is in fact evolving in many systems. But it's also evolving in a way that's making it more important, not less. Tight ends with athleticism post a match-up challenge that many defenses are simply incapable of coping with. That's why NFL teams are clamoring for tight ends athletic enough to create coverage problems in the passing game. Unless there is a new Tight End Oak I haven't heard about, those sought after players are honing their NFL skills in college. You think it might be worth recognizing one of them?
(NOTE: Not a real oak tree capable of producing NFL caliber tight ends)
Blocking ends still play a role in specific offenses, especially run heavy ones. The Wisconsin offense that created ESPN darling Melvin Gordon? They rely on their tight ends to create the holes that Melvin runs through. And if they had a quarterback capable of consistently executing the forward pass, they'd use them in the play action passing game more too.
Leading The Lonely Charge
Maybe I'm totally wrong though. Perhaps the demise of the tight end is real and it is that hard to find qualified candidates. After all, ESPN has a big staff who can do the research. Who am I to argue with their network of college conference specific bloggers? I'm sure each of them confirmed that indeed, tight ends are a dying breed and not worth recognizing. Right?
TE: Pharaoh Brown, Oregon: Brown suffered a season-ending injury in Oregon’s victory over Utah, but here’s hoping he makes a full recovery because he was fun to watch. He finished with six touchdowns on just 25 receptions and contributed a few huge blocks as well.(Full Pac-12 List)
TE Clive Walford, Miami: Was there a more complete tight end in the country? The numbers say there might not be: 44 catches (third nationally), 676 yards (third), 7 TDs (third nationally). Walford did this all with a true freshman QB, too.
TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss: Engram became the Rebels' top receiving target after Laquon Treadwell went down and finished second on the team with 37 receptions. His 651 receiving yards led all SEC tight ends.
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State: Bibbs led all tight ends nationally with eight TDs and was a matchup nightmare in Mark Mangino's offense.
TE: Maxx Williams, Minnesota: A John Mackey Award finalist, Williams was the Golden Gophers’ top receiver and crucial cog in their run game.
So to be clear, the position is disappearing and is so irrelevant/unimportant that every one of your Power 5 Conference blogs selected an all-conference winner for it. Just not your national writers (or whoever it is besides Ivan Maisel who compiled your All-American team).
I guess it must be because conference bloggers can't see the big picture. Surely other national publications have noticed the death of the tight end and are excluding it from their All-American lists as well?
Well knock me over with a feather. Tight ends in each of them. Who would have thunk it? /sarcasm
The Solution (It's Really Simple)
Keep your three wide receivers, add a tight end, and stop being insufferable ESPN college football All-American voters. I'll take my Nobel Prize for HOT TAKES now.